On the threshold of the third millennium, the future of the Saudi Arabia and the political stability of the Saud regime weighed on many unknowns. After the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States, the international role of the Saudi regime had suddenly changed, which could no longer be considered the main moderate Arab ally of the West as imposed by US diplomacy for decades. The Saudi Arabia had in fact become a country in the balance between the need not to compromise its relations with the West, risking to appear as the main financier of the terrorist network of al-Q ā ̔ i da, and the conflicting political thrusts within, of a reformist matrix on the one hand and rigidly doctrinaire on the other. Furthermore, the country had suffered increasingly serious setbacks in the region: first the defeat of the Ṭā lib ā n government in Afghānistān, a regime friend of the Saudi Arabia and counterpart to the Shiite Irān of the ā yatoll ā h ; then, after the fall of Ṣ. Ḥusayn (2003), the growing importance assumed by the Iraqi Shiite community, which worried the regime very much, fearful of possible claims of Saudi Shiites in the eastern provinces of the country, rich in oil, where they constituted the majority.
In the Saudi Arabia anti-Westernism, ancient religious roots but with strong collusion with the latest terrorist ǧ hee ā is, had grown in parallel and almost hidden from the tumultuous technological modernization, and certainly also due to the pro-US choices of the ruling house two decisive moments: the first Gulf War (1991), and Operation Enduring freedom (2001), in Afghānistān. Precisely on the occasion of this latest campaign (launched by US President GW Bush against the training camps of al-Q ā ̔ i da, but quickly became a war against the same regime of the Ṭā lib ā n), after an initial hesitation, the Saudi Arabia, despite being among the very few countries to have recognized the government of the ṭā lib ā n (together with the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan), sided with the United States, refusing however the use of their air bases for the launch of bombing and merely providing logistical support. But the traditional relations of friendship between the two countries now appeared to be cracked: several elements (the Saudi nationality of U. ibn Lādin and many of the 11 September, the suspicions about the links between Ibn Lādin himself and the head of the Saudi secret services, who was also removed from his post a few days before the attacks, the hesitation of the monarchy in the fight against terrorism) required the United States to change its political strategy, which it matured in conjunction with the second Gulf War, in ̔Irāq, and which saw, after the latter’s conclusion, a general reorganization of the US armed forces in the region. Once again, in fact, the choice of the Saudi regime to take sides with the United States had given rise to new controversy over the presence on the sacred ground of the Saudi Arabia of ‘infidel’ armies. At the end of the conflict, the US military forces left the country and moved to Qatar, while the number of their air bases in ̔Irāq increased.
Between 2003 and 2004, according to Health Beauty Guides, the kingdom was the victim of a wave of attacks, which opened on May 12 with car bombs exploding in three residential complexes for foreigners in Riyāḍ (35 victims). After the attack, the powerful Minister of the Interior, Prince Nā̓if (previously accused by the United States of having financed Ibn Lādin to divert his action out of the Saudi Arabia) expressed the will of the regime to strike at those responsible, presumed members of al- Q ā ̔ i from. L ‘ 8 November, a new suicide attack on a district on the outskirts of the capital caused 17 deaths, and in 2004(April and May) other attacks in the capital and in the cities of Yanbu and al-Khubar resulted in the deaths of many foreign citizens. It was now an open clash between Islamic terrorism and the Saudi dynasty, considered by the terrorists unworthy to lead the country, symbol of Islam, and delegitimized by the rigorous criticism of the Saudi religious apparatus, contrary to the westernization of customs, to relations of dependence with the United States and the corruption of princely families (over 10,000people, but there are those who argue that there are many more, who spend more than a third of national income uncontrolled). The terrorist campaign also constituted a serious threat to the cautious reforms launched in the country, and indeed blocked the dialogue between the regime, the liberal dissidents and the Shiite minority that had opened between January and March 2003 with the presentation of two separate petitions to the crown prince ̔Abd-Allāh, de facto regent since 1995. Crushed by the terrorist wave, the initial opening shown by Abd-Allāh, was not followed up, except for marginal measures: the enlargement to 120 members of the Advisory Council appointed by the Royal was decided (introduced by King Fahd at the beginning of the Ninety of 20th Century), which was also granted the possibility of proposing new laws without prior royal authorization; but the discussion around the proposals put forward by the reformists (free elections, autonomy of the judicial system, recognition of women’s rights) fell on deaf ears. On the civil rights front, after the issuance of the first identity documents for women (December 2001), previously registered on the documents of fathers or husbands, nothing changed, and women were denied participation in the vote on the occasion of the first electoral consultations in the history of the Saudi kingdom, the municipal ones, which took place in three rounds in February, March and April 2005. After having repeatedly postponed them, ̔Abd-Allāh, he had in fact granted them, but not for this he initiated a downsizing of the absolute power of the monarchy. The non-existence of political parties, the non-eligibility of half of the seats, the veto power of the elected officials by the government and the very scarce autonomy of the municipal councils weakened the scope of the consultation, which was, moreover, deserted by the population.
A few months after the vote, with the death of the king (August 2005) ̔Abd-Allāh (82 years old) ascended the throne, who had undertaken to mend relations with the United States (with which, moreover, the traditional economic relations) and in 2002 he promoted a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians. The eighty-year-old Prince Sultān, at the center of a powerful clan that also included the minister Nā̓if, was appointed heir to the throne.